Ruatoria connected

‘Now we can stay here and be Ngati Porou strong.’

‘Now we can stay here and be Ngati Porou strong.’

HOW MAY I HELP YOU? Sitting one of Connect Global's 14 newest employees Vanessa Ngarimu, with Global Connect founders Siuai and Serena Fiso and economic development minister Steven Joyce. The group yesterday enjoyed opening celebrations of Ruatoria's newest business. Pictures by Kayla Dalrymple
OFFICIALLY OPEN: Yesterday morning economic development minister Steven Joyce took a flight from Timaru to Christchurch, then to Wellington, on to Gisborne and a drive to Ruatoria to be at the official opening of Connect Global's Ruatoria branch. He did the honours of cutting the ribbon.

A "game-changer to help our people" is now at Ruatoria in the form of a call centre. The Connect Global call centre opened in Ruatoria yesterday and with it came 14 new jobs.

Te Runanganui o Ngati Porou board member and iwi advocate Te Rau Kupenga, who was key to pushing the process along, described the centre as a game-changer.

“This is where dreams are made,” he said. “We all know how to dream but now we are making them a reality. Now we can stay here and be Ngati Porou strong.”

Minister for Economic development Steven Joyce attended and spoke at the festivities including a lighthearted reference to the infamous “flying dildo” incident.

“I was just hanging around on Waitangi Day, not doing much, when an unmanned flying vehicle hit me on the chin.

“Little did I know I was auditioning for the John Oliver Show,” he said in reference to featuring on the satirical American news and talk show.

“Then all of a sudden someone was telling me about this Ngati Porou call centre.”

After several flights, starting in Timaru, and the drive from Gisborne to Ruatoria, he was able to see it for himself.

“What you are doing here in Ruatoria is saying ‘yeah, we are going to be connected, and we are going to do it our way’.”

Mr Joyce said the Government was working alongside iwi, local councils, entrepreneurs and investors to grow and create industry for smaller regional areas.

He also spoke of the importance of creating jobs in smaller regions so that families could stay and prosper.

“The great thing about technology these days is that you can do just about anything anywhere.”

Company started 14 years ago

Helping people do that are Connect Global founders and husband and wife Serena (who is Maori) and Siuai Fiso (Samoan). They first started the company 14 years ago with a call centre in Porirua.

Mrs Fiso said the drive behind their business was to help “our people”.

“We asked ourselves, ‘what can we do to help our people?’ We have 65 employees now working at Porirua.

“When it was time to expand people told us to set up in Auckland but that is not true to our vision or where our people are.”

With a population of around 750 and an unemployment rate of 18.4 percent, “help” in the form of jobs was something Ruatoria needed.

“Business continues to pull people out of small townships but now we have jobs, and we can take these jobs to the people.

“Towns that were once great continue to struggle because of this migration to the city. It is time to show the nation how great we really are,” said Mrs Fiso.

Gisborne mayor Meng Foon said it was inspirational to see so many happy faces at the new business

“This is huge and it has my total support and if we can help, we will.”

Too good to be true

One of the call centre’s new employees, Vanessa Ngarimu, said she initially thought news of the centre was simply too good to be true.

“I thought it was going to be some dodgy outfit that would take advantage of us. As the weeks went by and the Westpac building was under construction, it both irritated me that it was all happening so fast and delighted me because these people actually meant business.”

Curiosity eventually got the better of her and after popping her head in the door one day, she was offered an interview.

“I went from being very sceptical and now I am employed. The vision Connect Global has suits Ruatoria and Ruatoria suits the vision.”

Ms Ngarimu said for a place like Ruatoria, 14 jobs were a “big deal”.

“As we sit at the pinnacle of unemployment, I feel so grateful that someone had faith in us. It is not that we do not want to work. We just do not want to leave this paradise.”

Ms Ngarimu said she would not have believed she would be standing inside the call centre with a job if someone told her months ago.

“I see a bright future for us all, may our connections continue to grow and be forever strong, mauriora.”

A "game-changer to help our people" is now at Ruatoria in the form of a call centre. The Connect Global call centre opened in Ruatoria yesterday and with it came 14 new jobs.

Te Runanganui o Ngati Porou board member and iwi advocate Te Rau Kupenga, who was key to pushing the process along, described the centre as a game-changer.

“This is where dreams are made,” he said. “We all know how to dream but now we are making them a reality. Now we can stay here and be Ngati Porou strong.”

Minister for Economic development Steven Joyce attended and spoke at the festivities including a lighthearted reference to the infamous “flying dildo” incident.

“I was just hanging around on Waitangi Day, not doing much, when an unmanned flying vehicle hit me on the chin.

“Little did I know I was auditioning for the John Oliver Show,” he said in reference to featuring on the satirical American news and talk show.

“Then all of a sudden someone was telling me about this Ngati Porou call centre.”

After several flights, starting in Timaru, and the drive from Gisborne to Ruatoria, he was able to see it for himself.

“What you are doing here in Ruatoria is saying ‘yeah, we are going to be connected, and we are going to do it our way’.”

Mr Joyce said the Government was working alongside iwi, local councils, entrepreneurs and investors to grow and create industry for smaller regional areas.

He also spoke of the importance of creating jobs in smaller regions so that families could stay and prosper.

“The great thing about technology these days is that you can do just about anything anywhere.”

Company started 14 years ago

Helping people do that are Connect Global founders and husband and wife Serena (who is Maori) and Siuai Fiso (Samoan). They first started the company 14 years ago with a call centre in Porirua.

Mrs Fiso said the drive behind their business was to help “our people”.

“We asked ourselves, ‘what can we do to help our people?’ We have 65 employees now working at Porirua.

“When it was time to expand people told us to set up in Auckland but that is not true to our vision or where our people are.”

With a population of around 750 and an unemployment rate of 18.4 percent, “help” in the form of jobs was something Ruatoria needed.

“Business continues to pull people out of small townships but now we have jobs, and we can take these jobs to the people.

“Towns that were once great continue to struggle because of this migration to the city. It is time to show the nation how great we really are,” said Mrs Fiso.

Gisborne mayor Meng Foon said it was inspirational to see so many happy faces at the new business

“This is huge and it has my total support and if we can help, we will.”

Too good to be true

One of the call centre’s new employees, Vanessa Ngarimu, said she initially thought news of the centre was simply too good to be true.

“I thought it was going to be some dodgy outfit that would take advantage of us. As the weeks went by and the Westpac building was under construction, it both irritated me that it was all happening so fast and delighted me because these people actually meant business.”

Curiosity eventually got the better of her and after popping her head in the door one day, she was offered an interview.

“I went from being very sceptical and now I am employed. The vision Connect Global has suits Ruatoria and Ruatoria suits the vision.”

Ms Ngarimu said for a place like Ruatoria, 14 jobs were a “big deal”.

“As we sit at the pinnacle of unemployment, I feel so grateful that someone had faith in us. It is not that we do not want to work. We just do not want to leave this paradise.”

Ms Ngarimu said she would not have believed she would be standing inside the call centre with a job if someone told her months ago.

“I see a bright future for us all, may our connections continue to grow and be forever strong, mauriora.”

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